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USO Supports Troops During the Holidays

By Army Reserve 1st Lt. Steve Alvarez
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2003 – The United Service Organizations recently announced it has teamed up with Armed Forces Entertainment and Reader's Digest to help support U.S. troops during the 2003 holiday season.

The USO, a nonprofit charitable corporation that extends a touch of home to military members, will soon send entertainer Wayne Newton, actor/director Gary Sinise, singer/television star Chris Isaak, country music star Neal McCoy and members of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders to entertain troops stationed in the Persian Gulf between now and the end of the year.

The troupe will perform several shows, visit with service members, and tour duty stations at a number of locations in the region. This tour marks the seventh tour in the last two years for Newton, who is the USO's Celebrity Circle chairman. Newton has entertained troops since the Vietnam War and in June he participated in the first USO tour to Iraq.

Sinise, Isaak, and McCoy are also veteran USO performers. The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders have joined with the USO 53 times over the last 25 years and have performed on more USO tours than any other entertainment group.

Additionally, the USO is working with Reader's Digest in an effort known as "Operation Desert Smile," which it hopes will bring 5,000 gift bags to troops in Iraq in time for the holidays. Reader's Digest advertisers have donated more than $500,000 worth of snacks, prepaid calling cards, toiletries, magazines, books and compact discs to support the effort.

"The USO is grateful to Reader's Digest and its advertisers for their generosity," USO President and CEO Edward A. Powell said. "Banding together to bring needed items to our troops, especially during the holidays, exemplifies the American spirit of supporting and remembering our men and women in uniform," he added.

As part of their holiday push to support U.S. service personnel overseas, the USO is urging Americans to support "Operation Phone Home." The program helps make international calling cards available for each U.S. service member stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan in time for the holidays.

"Giving these men and women in uniform the opportunity to speak with their loved ones over the holidays will provide an immeasurable boost to their morale," Powell said. "The USO's mission is to improve the quality of life for our troops and serve as a link between them and the American people. It is our way of giving back to those who give their all," he added.

Since April, the USO's "Operation Phone Home" has raised more than $200,000 and delivered nearly 30,000 calling cards to service members.

Donations can be made by visiting the USO Web site at www.uso.org or by calling 1-800-876-7469. Callers should specify their gift is for the "USO Operation Phone Home" campaign.

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